Diet & Nutrition

Sperm may use "harpoons" during fertilisation

Researchers have discovered that sperm may use "harpoons" to fertilise eggs.

According to scientists from the University of Virginia (UVA), sperm are able to form spikey protein filaments on their head, essentially tiny “harpoons” that allow them to latch onto eggs and other sperm during fertilisation.
"This finding has really captured our imagination," said UVA reproduction researcher John Herr of the Department of Cell Biology.
"One of the major proteins that is abundant in the acrosome is crystallizing into filaments, and we now postulate they're involved in penetrating the egg – that's the new hypothesis emerging from the finding, which leads to a whole new set of questions and new hypotheses about the very fine structure of molecular events during fertilisation."
While the exact role played by the filaments during fertilization is not entirely clear, but it is hypothesised to help the sperm enter the egg. The discovery could give experts a better understanding of the fertilisation process.
"At the very fundamental level, understanding that fine molecular architecture leads me, the biologist, to be able to posit new functions for this family of proteins my lab discovered in the acrosome," said Herr.

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